Central to my interests are the day-to-day environments that over time forge our social identities. Landscape theorists such as J. B. Jackson and W. Hoskins have argued that the vernacular architecture or the landscape in general functions as a mirror of the cultural process. While we can read our own histories within our built environments, our understanding of foreign cultures, environments, and lives lived there is often informed by representations and simulations rather than by direct experience. As an immigrant I find these representations of the “other” very interesting. My current work engages with the representations of a different world embedded in the simulated environments of Fort Riley army installation training sites. Occupying more than 92,000 acres of public land, these training grounds were primarily designed for soldiers deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Explored in this body of work are several “Live Fire Villages,” which are desert hamlets/compounds, each containing five to ten structures, and the “Victory Village,” a cluster of buildings common to European towns. Live Fire Villages are constructed using shipping containers, often with concrete boulders forming the periphery walls. These structures represent primitive urban spaces with dwellings, businesses, and mosques. The grounds are covered with gravel to simulate arid desert lands of the Middle East. The containers are painted in earth tones. Often they are wrapped in life-size textures of adobe, printed on flex. The Victory Village consists of several cinder block buildings representing a bank, clinic, police station, school, church, motel, etc. These buildings are fitted with cameras, microphones, smoke machines, and loud speakers (emitting sound effects such as wailing women, screams, calls to prayer, barking dogs, and helicopter landings) to simulate, according to the Fort Riley Public Affairs office, “every imaginable combat situation.” The experience of these spaces is paradoxical and fascinating. On one hand, they offer a distinct (almost attractive) sense of place, characteristic of a tight-knit community, which can seem rare in today’s world. On the other hand they appear to be analog versions of the theater of violence, typical to many computer games.
Throughout history, imperialist ambitions have fueled many human conflicts around the globe. In the neoliberal democracies, corporate intentions often hide behind religious and ethical excuses that aim to persuade the masses to engage in international conflicts. How appropriate, then, that the anonymous representative of global trade networks—the shipping container—functions as the primary building unit of the Live Fire Villages.
I believe that the phenomenon of out-of-sight international conflict is a significant feature of the American cultural experience. We need to understand the fears and assumptions about the “distant other” that are deeply embedded in these simulations. These environments are designed to shape the tactical memories of soldiers. The theater of fake violence with paintball guns and blanks that is played out here has real consequences on the other side of the globe. I hope this body of work will illuminate the profound social and political imaginations that define the “us-them divide” in the collective unconscious.
ARTerrain Gallery | The Non-Places of Intelligence By Shreepad Joglekar
All images in this gallery copyright Shreepad Joglekar; images may not be copied or otherwise used without express written consent of the artist. Click image to view in larger size or to begin slideshow:
About the Artist
Shreepad Joglekar is a lens-based artist, born in Solapur, India. He holds a BFA from Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Art in Mumbai, India, and an MFA from Texas Tech University. Joglekar has been awarded residencies at Weir Farm National Historic Site in Branchville, Connecticut; the Millay Colony for the Arts in Austerlitz, New York; and A.I.R. Studio in Paducah, Kentucky. His work is held in the permanent collections of the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado; Harper College Educational Foundation Art Collection in Palatine, Illinois; and Chashama Nonprofit Group in New York City. His work has also been shown in galleries in the U.S., Canada, China, Cuba, Egypt, Germany, India, and the United Kingdom. Exploring natural, cultural, and constructed environments has been a dominant theme in his work. Joglekar is currently Assistant Professor and Area Coordinator for Photography at Kansas State University.
Find more of Shreepad Joglekar’s work at aabhaa.com.
Header image: Creepy Choir, Live Fire Village #5, Fort Riley, Kansas.